(Wimbledon) Still ranked above 150th in the world a year ago, the American Christopher Eubanks, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas (5th) in the round of 16, is the sensation of this Wimbledon tournament, before facing Wednesday Daniil Medvedev (3rd) in quarter.
“I’m not one who loves history or traditions […], but being able to say, even to people who don’t know tennis, ‘I played a quarter at Wimbledon’, it attracts a whole form special respect,” Eubanks said in a video podcast with fellow countrymen Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton just before the tournament began.
He was far from measuring the almost prophetic scope of his declaration, but, on Wednesday, he will become, at 27, the oldest player to play his first quarter-final at Wimbledon since 1968.
The culmination of a tremendous boost taken by his career since his first quarter-final in an ATP 1000 tournament, in April in Miami, precisely lost against Medvedev 6-3, 7-5, allowed him to enter the top 100.
After the victory, two rounds earlier, against the French Grégoire Barrère, who sealed his entry into this closed club, emotion had gripped this son of a Baptist pastor from Atlanta, Georgia, who had introduced him to tennis. as soon as he was old enough to hold a racket.
While dreaming of a pro career, Eubanks has always been wary of his own potential, which arguably explains his late bloomer.
“Growing up, I was never the best junior, I was never the best in my state or my section, I was never the best nationally, or anything,” he revealed. , in tears, in Miami.
“For a long time I wondered if I had enough consistency to play at this level sustainably. I could be good on any game, get on fire and give any guy problems. But I don’t know if I thought I could do it game after game against quality opponents,” he said after his five-set victory over Tsitsipas, his first against a top-10 player.
In 2021, at age 25, when the COVID-19 pandemic made the future very uncertain and he was languishing beyond 200th place at the ATP, he even said to his agent: “Listen, if I’m still in the 200 next year without it being due to injuries, I’ll do something else with my time.
After the click of Miami, there was also that of Mallorca, where he won his first pro tournament, climbing to 43rd in the world and discovering an unsuspected affinity with the grass where he is undefeated for nine games.
His size (2.01m), his big serve, his forward game, his forehand as powerful as it is loose seem to be made for this surface.
But in early June, after his second-round elimination from the Surbiton Challenger, he called for help from former world number one Kim Clijsters.
“Hi Kim, grass is the dumbest surface to play tennis on!” “he had railed in an exchange where the Belgian gave him some advice and of which he had published the screenshots after his coronation in Mallorca, three weeks later, to thank her.
Eubanks also acknowledged the support of his compatriots Tiafoe, Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka.
“Hey, you can play at this level, you just have to believe it!” “, the three players tirelessly repeated to him.
“When I’m with them and hear them talk about how confident they are in me, it’s kind of contagious. Eventually it rubs off” on him, he admitted.
Calling his journey over the past few weeks a “whirlwind” and a “dream come true”, Eubanks jokingly admitted that the only lesson he had learned from it all so far was, “I actually like grass. “.
As for his day-to-day life, the only thing that changed was “the end date of (his) hotel reservation,” he said.